Venezuela gov’t, opposition pledge to address people’s needs

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Representatives of Venezuela’s government and opposition agreed Monday to find ways to deal with the pressing needs of Venezuelans, especially in combatting the coronavirus pandemic.

In a joint statement issued at the close of their first round of negotiations in Mexico’s capital, the parties said they decided to “establish mechanisms for the restoration and achievement of resources to meet the social needs of the population with special emphasis on the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The statement offered no specifics on what might be done. though it indicated they would be relying on help from multilateral organizations.

In addition, the parties said the first point of the next round of talks will be discussions on Venezuela’s justice system and respect for its constitutional institutions.

Last month’s release from prison of opposition leader Freddy Guevara, as well as the opposition coalition’s announcement this week that it would participate in upcoming regional elections, were seen by both sides as the first results of the process, which is expected to last at least six months.

However, President Nicolás Maduro continued to lash out over the weekend at Juan Guaidó, the opposition leader supported by the U.S. and other nations, for his attempt to wrest power in 2019.

“There is not going to be impunity here, neither in Mexico nor on Mars,” Maduro said Sunday. “There has to be justice, severe justice.”

Millions of Venezuelans live in poverty, facing high food prices and the world’s worst inflation rate. The food assistance agency of the United Nations has estimated one of every three Venezuelans struggles to consume enough daily calories.

The country’s political, social and economic crises, entangled with plummeting oil production and prices, have continued to deepen during the pandemic.

The U.S. government eased a sanction in July so that people can eventually regain access to propane rather than cooking on coal or wood stoves. The decision was seen as a good-faith gesture to promote dialogue.

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